Wouldn’t it be wonderful if kids could show their veggies just a fraction of the love they show you? Perhaps this Valentine’s Day we should ask cupid to strive for veggie “like.” These five tips will help.
If you wrote “Be Mine” on a string bean, would your kid eat it like a little candy heart, or turn away your offer?
These are the challenges parents face every day, but they are particularly heartbreaking on holidays like St. Valentine’s. That’s when we make special meals for the family. We’re used to it, but wouldn’t it be sweet if the kids showed their veggies just a fraction of the love they show you?
There’s no simple solutions to doing that. It can take a child eight to 10 tries of a new food before she accepts it. This may be why 93 percent of kids do not get their daily recommended servings of veggies – one to three cups a day depending on age. Staying true to veggies takes time and tenacity.
However, there are steps that can help your kid cross that footbridge to veggie acceptance and, in time, even veggie like. Here are five ways to help in time for Valentine’s Day:
1: Try a new look: Give your kids a shot of love by presenting their foods in curious forms. For example, skewer green peas on toothpicks and call them Cu-pead’s arrows. Or transform carrots, zucchini and yellow squash into colorful ribbons or arrow slings. It’s easy! Strip the veggies lengthwise using a standard peeler, about 1/16 of an inch. The ribbons can be served alone or with macaroni salad, raw or blanched. (For blanching, cook the ribbons in salted boiling water for about a minute and then transfer to a bowl of ice water.)
2: Add a little spice: Food doesn’t have to be hot to be spicy. Nutmeg, cumin, cilantro and lemon can counteract veggie bitterness and add a pleasant flavor dimension. Also consider pairing your veggies with complementary, healthy foods. If your kid loves apples, mix them with sweet potatoes. If he will eat carrots, combine them with peas. If your child is very young, try introducing her to new foods almost daily.
3: Avoid a rut: Be sure to regularly add new vegetables at snack time and mealtime. This applies to Valentine’s Day and every day. We get it that the temptation to stick to a preferred new vegetable is great (she’ll eat the cucumber, after all). But this is the time to build on her awareness that new is not necessarily yucky. Also, and importantly, veggies have varying nutritional profiles that are indicated by their color. Red and orange veggies are teeming with vitamin C. Green vegetables pack a lot of iron. So shoot for the rainbow!
4: Play easy to get: Kids are more likely to eat foods that are readily available, but it helps to make them eye-catching. Pull together a colorful plate of veggies and place it in a high-traffic area of the house. It’s likely the kids will eat at least some of them. You don’t have to go nuts to make it pretty – a simple glass serves as a lovely vase for carrot and pepper sticks. This same logic applies to the refrigerator – free your veggies from the crisper and display them at your kid’s eye level.
5: Be an all-natural matchmaker: Kids have three times as many taste buds as adults, so some foods, including veggies, might be a little overwhelming. Think of it as drinking a cup of coffee three times as strong as your regular brew. But rather than adding cream, you can soften veggie flavors by matching them with all-natural, sugar-free dips. Try to avoid dips that are high in fat, additives and sugar, which not only will mask the flavor of the vegetable, but could also throw a kid’s mood and concentration off.
Hopefully these tips will encourage your kids to accept your little love offerings at your special Valentine’s Day meal. We don’t expect veggies to win their hearts all at once – good relationships take time, after all. But perhaps in time they will develop veggie like and possibly (be still our hearts), veggie love.